13 Mar, 2020 @ 20:15
2 mins read

CORONAVIRUS: Gibraltar businesses ask for help to overcome crisis

Casemates 2

BUSINESSES in Gibraltar have asked for government aid in an exclusive Olive Press report.

After the Chamber of Commerce asked the government to help alleviate the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, some of them talked to your favourite campaigning newspaper.

“I think it’s a little bit over the top at the moment,” said Lord Nelson’s general manager Melanie Paxman.

“But then again, I’ve just read there’s over 4,000 cases in Spain with over 100 deaths so I can understand our own thoughts to protect ourselves.

“I suppose it’s better to have the restrictions now than in the middle of summer, when we’ve got most of the tourist trade.”

However, with the ban imposed from today, she felt they were going to lose out on their biggest night of the week.

“We’re going to lose a lot of business by closing at 8pm,” said Paxman.

“We have live bands in the evening and live sports on the weekend which will be postponed.

“I’m wondering if it is going to affect wages and rent, so it would be nice if the government could help us out with this side because it’s nobody’s fault this has happened.”

She said they had taken the necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus.

“We bought lots of disinfectant and we are keeping on top of general hygiene,” said Paxman.

“We’ve got people wearing gloves and every hour or so every handle is being cleaned and disinfected.”

Tax delays

Mahesh Dhanwani of electronics shop Scala in Casemates believes it is right for people to be more cautious.

“The Coronavirus fears have definitely affected business for the last few weeks,” said Dhanwani.

“Everybody is more careful and rightly so, because in countries like Italy where they took a long time to take action, they have now had to declare a full lockdown.

“Spain has also declared a state of emergency so I don’t know why we shouldn’t follow suit.

“If we wait and it gets worse I am sure our health system won’t be able to cope with so many issues all at the same time.”

Main Street 2
MAIN STREET: A normal day in the busy artery of Gibraltar

The local businessman said it was possible that there would be ‘a full lockdown’ of all shops except for supermarkets and pharmacies soon.

“Spain expects 1,000 new cases over the next week, and the virus won’t stop at the frontier,” he said.

“The issue is that we have a lot of professionals coming across the border that work in the health service and other areas.”

Dhanwani believes that the government could help local companies by delaying payment of fees.

“The authorities could give every business a three or six month moratorium rather than tax cuts,” he said.

“Then we could start paying back the government the taxes, PAYE and rates we owe after this time has ended.”

Neighbourhood impact

Over the border in La Linea de la Concepcion, La Gaviota restaurant manager Pedro Diaz told the Olive Press about the impact of the pandemic.

“Over the last week and a half we have had a lot less people here,” said Diaz.

“We must now wait and see what the Spanish council of ministers will say because the latest measures could drive small businesses like us to ruin.

“We need to pay social security, rent, workers’ wages and income tax.”

With bars and restaurants closed down in the Spanish capital Madrid, he fears the same could be imposed all over the country.

“We could be ordered to close from Monday,” said Diaz.

“I am just hoping they give us some help at this time when everything is being closed down.”

What is clear is that businesses on both sides of the border could be affected by this ban and if government help does not come, bankruptcy could be just around the corner for many of them.

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